An online journal documenting the planning and building process of our modern home from start to finish. It is intended to share our experiences throughout this project with all those interested in modern design.

A new home site? - let's hope so...

Since the whole Mill property fiasco started going down, we started searching for a new place to build. We did find a pretty cool place and actually spent a few days doing a detailed survey of the property (see link here). It was a 11 acre parcel just east of the town of Merrillan with a big hill about 150ft high occupying the majority of the site. However, in reality it would be a pretty difficult site. The hill was very steep from all sides and there wasn't much flat space near the top to build on no to mention the construction of a road to the top would be expensive and steep - not so good in winter. Anne likes challenging projects ;-)
Anne spent several months searching for property listing and Google Earth for vacant land with some terrain and rolling hills. She really did put a lot of work into it and it finally paid off.
We finally found a really neat piece of property for sale just south of the town of Black River Falls - just over 13 acres, with around a 100ft sandstone cliff that has a nice, flat, build-able area at the top. It has a great 180 degree view of the entire eastern horizon going about 5 to 15 miles off in the distance and somewhat to the south. (see the Google Earth terrain model picture). Should be able to see some great moon and sun rises from there and should be good for utilizing passive solar "daylighting" heating.
There is very little building below it (except for a house just at the bottom of the cliff and out of view) and the Black River is visible just to the east of the property. Pretty much everything in view east of the river is county forest land so will never be built on.
There already is a dirt road in good condition going to the top which will make construction much easier and the big flat area at the top is more than enough to build a home on. Since it is unincorporated, we won't have any village board to deal with and since there is river/lake/creek on the property, the DNR won't be involved either wo-hoo!!.
We put an offer in on the property, are in escrow now, and set to close on June 12th if all goes well. Overall, this is an awesome site and we are excited to finally start making some progress again!

The Mill - R.I.P. 1860 something to 2009 - now a big unsightly hole and hazard...

It has been a long time since we last posted and much has happened since then. Much of it was related to legal issues we have had with the Village of Merrillan and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It is a long story with a lot of boring details but here is a short summary:

After some stones from the south wall of the Mill building foundation fell out and into the creek, the DNR decided to issue a "draw down" order to the Village for the lake behind the dam. They claimed it was a "high hazard" dam and the the stones falling out of the foundation of the building compromised the dam's safety. The funny thing is that just 12 miles away, there is a real dam with a hydroelectric plant, a big lake behind it, and substantial infrastructure below the dam. This dam actually is crumbling and needs to be repaired or removed (something being worked out by Jackson County and Black River Falls). The last time there was a major flood in 1993, a large part of the city was flooded damaging more than 100 homes (source here). Funny, this dam is rated as "low hazard". Compare this the the Merrillan dam which at most has around 10 acres of water in it and maybe 8 feet deep at the deepest part. Also, there are no homes/buildings in the flood plain area down river. Why would this dam be considered high hazard?
Regardless, the Village Board was upset at the lake being drawn down which became even more of an eyesore. They didn't want to work with us to try to improve the situation and instead decided to try to first issue a "raze order" and then try to eminent domain the property from us. Amusingly, they really couldn't decide what to do, because at various times they were trying to eminent domain it from us and at others, they claimed that we really weren't the owners and the original sale to the first private owner was "illegal". Really, they had no basis for the eminent domain since having a lake isn't really a public necessity.
We finally got tired of all of the trips and paperwork (and costs) to keep fighting and ended up selling the property to the Village in Jan 09. Which immediately afterward, they hired some local Amish people to tear down the wooden part of the Mill structure. The funny thing is, we can't figure out why they were so quick to tear down the wood since it really didn't accomplish anything.
The DNR still won't lift the draw down order since nothing was done to address the "safety" concern and it is going to cost a lot of money to remove the foundation and engineer fill the site to a condition the DNR finds suitable something the Village really can't afford. We could have (on the other hand) afforded it, and would have added a beautiful structure to replace the delapidated Mill and also would have added quite a bit in property taxes to the Village's tax base in the process.
In the end, no one benefited since the lake is still down, it is going to cost a bundle to fix it, and now there is a big, ugly, open hole in the ground next to the dam. So much for the public safety claims since the Village now does own the property (WITH A BIG OPEN HOLE) and has made no attempt to fence it in, or prevent someone from falling in to it (check out the video below).